Die Wechselpräpositionen

Published by Roslyn Green in January 2023

The Case of the “Changing” Prepositions

The prepositions in the middle of this diagram are the trickiest ones in German, since they are followed by either the accusative case or the dative case, depending on the context of the situation.

Sentence Examples

1 Wo ist mein Handy?

  • Movement: Du hast es in deine Schultasche gesteckt. You put it into your schoolbag. (accusative ending after in)
  • Position: Es ist in deiner Schultasche. It’s in your schoolbag. (dative ending after in)

2 Wo ist die Katze?

  • Movement: Sie ist unter das Haus gegangen. She went under the house. (accusative article after unter)
  • Position: Sie ist unter dem Haus. She is under the house. (dative article after unter)

3 Es gibt in dieser Stadt einen Weihnachtsmarkt!

  • Movement: Wir möchten auf den Weihnachtsmarkt fahren. We’d like to go/drive to the Christmas market. (accusative article after auf)
  • Position: Wir kaufen immer Geschenke auf dem Weihnachtsmarkt. We always buy presents at the Christmas market. (dative article after auf)

The Accusative and Dative Articles

Examples with Possessive Pronouns:
Accusative: Sie hat ihre Gartengeräte in meinen Garten gebracht.
Dative: Ihre Gartengeräte sind in meinem Garten.
Accusative: Er hat sein Fahrrad in meine Garage gestellt.
Dative: Sein Fahrrad ist in meiner Garage.
Accusative: Er geht in sein Zimmer, um sich zu entspannen.
Dative: Er entspannt sich in seinem Zimmer.

When the context refers to movement into a particular area, the preposition is followed by the accusative case.

When the context refers to remaining, existing or being within an area, however, the preposition must be followed by the dative case.

These rules also apply to the endings on possessive pronouns.

Meaning Check

Online Activities and Materials

Quiz: Verbs That Trigger the Accusative Case in German

This quiz identifies and clarifies the meaning of key movement verbs in German and provides practice with using the accusative articles in sentences.

This quiz as a printable PDF

Kahoot: More Practice with the Changing Prepositions

This is a fairly challenging Kahoot for students who feel confident about using the “changing prepositions”.

Handout | Arbeitsblatt

This double-sided handout provides a summary of the information on this page, along with exercises similar to those in the online quizzes.

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